7 mins video: “What is Learning Reinforcement?”

SwissVBS Learning Hub

Take just 7 minutes to learn about training reinforcement (or learning reinforcement). Obi Ochu, one of our learning experts in Toronto, talks us through the basics of training reinforcement during this whiteboard session.



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Video Transcript

Hello everybody!

My name is Obi Ochu from the SwissVBS office in Toronto, and I want to thank all of you for taking the time to experience our Whiteboard on a concept known as Learning Reinforcement.

So, the question of the day is “What is Learning Reinforcement?” To truly understand what “Learning Reinforcement” is, it’s critical to go back to what is known as “The Learning Journey”. Most learning journeys are kicked off with what is known as “The Initial Learning Event”, that maybe face-to-face in a classroom, maybe online, or it may be a blended experience.

The core objective of the initial learning is to communicate and teach course skills, competencies, and knowledge to a pool of employees or learners, so they can take those skills into the all-important performance moment to not only meet but exceed expectations.

Now the performance moment depending on what job you’re in; it can take the form of an online environment; if you’re a doctor, an operating room. If you’re a pilot, in a cockpit, or in the field, in an office, or the factory floor; it doesn’t matter. The key objective is that what you learned in the classroom is available to you to apply so you exceed your expectations.

Ultimately, the core goal of a successful learning journey is role competency, role efficiency, role confidence, and personal growth and development. And if you achieve all these things from an organizational perspective, you’re maximizing your learning ROI. But the key challenge to access a successful learning journey is the concept of the day, which is called the forgetting curve. At a high level, the forgetting curve proposes that 70 percent of what is taught in the classroom can be forgotten within 24 hours, and even scarce statistics is up to 90% of what was taught in the classroom can be forgotten in a week. And what the forgetting curve causes is what is known as memory leakage. This severely affects the performance moment, and the forgetting curve and its effects are compounded by what is known as the illusion of knowing. This is where people mistake fluency for mastery.

So you may ask, “What’s the difference between fluency and mastery?”. Fluency in most cases is people feel if they’re able to regurgitate information with confidence, passion, and speed, they feel they know and understand what is being taught, but that is not mastery. Mastery is having a true knowledge of the concepts and the skills that were communicated in the classroom and the ability to apply those skills in the workplace.

So when you look at the forgetting curve, and when you look at the illusion of knowing, this underlines the importance of learning reinforcement. So we ask ourselves, how do we initiate a successful learning reinforcements strategy? How do we make sure that people retain what was taught in the class room?

A way of achieving this is what is known as a retrieval practice. A retrieval practice prompts you, the learner, to recall critical information. I underlined the term critical because reinforcement is not about retraining, it’s not about replacing training, it’s about recalling key concepts. Now the term retrieval practice is a big word. What is it? It’s a fancy way of targeted, customized quizzes. Questions that take multiple forms of maybe multiple choice, maybe text entry, it maybe drag & drop. It depends on the learning DNA of your organization. So, these questions are regularly introduced to the learner when they’re in the performance moment so they can recall information they need to do their job at a high level.

So, retrieval practice has also helped in plugging memory leakage and it also helps in overcoming the illusion of knowing. So, when you look at reinforcement as a learning reinforcement, it is important to understand that its effectiveness is rooted in science and some of the key principles that guide and drive learning reinforcement is:

Number 1 it has to be effortful. It’s typically spaced out. Typically, doesn’t happen every day, may happen every other day. It has to be interleaved, and again, the feedback is typically delayed.

If you implement a successful reinforcement strategy, what now happens to the forgetting curve? Its impacted in a way that the volume of knowledge that’s lost is mitigated because through interval, through regular, and space retrieval practices, we’re able to boost your retention levels on a regular basis throughout a given period and what that effectively does is plugging the memory leaks.

And I just wanted to come back to this here because this is critical. When you take a look at memory leakage and the forgetting curve, I’ll give a little bit of an example.

I remember when I was driving to the United States to attend the basketball tournament for my son and the GPS told me “Take Exit 9”, so I took Exit 9. Three weeks later I had to make the same trip, but I couldn’t remember the exit to take, and the reason being is that the brain continuously flushes out information as I indicated over here. So, the brain has told me that that information is not pertinent. That’s why it couldn’t remember, but in the case of pertinent information, which I’ll give you an example, like your zip code for my friends in the United States or your postal code for my friends in Canada. You remember that information instantaneously because you’ve had to apply for mortgage, driver’s license, bank accounts. So, the brain has decided to take that piece of information from perishable memory to long-term memory at a high level. That’s the concept of retention and learning reinforcement.

So, I just wanted to come back to this here… If you implement a successful reinforcement strategy, you will have improved retention, you’ll have improved performance, and this one is really critical, you’ll also have at your fingertips powerful insights. And what are powerful insights? That’s the analytics, that’s the data, that’s the information you as an individual or as an organization need to make informed decisions, improve your learning systems, and also make important critical decisions that impact you moving forward. If you’re able to achieve these three, again the goal ultimately is maximization of ROI.

I just want to thank everybody for taking the time to experience our first Whiteboard on Learning Reinforcement and we look forward to sharing with you more topics and content around learning in the next few weeks. Thank you!